The Land Exchange

On May 17 2017, the U.S. District Court reversed a land exchange on Wolf Creek Pass that had been approved by the U.S. Forest Service in 2015. This land exchange would have provided increased access to a roughly 300-acre inholding that has been proposed for development by Texas billionaire “Red” McCombs. This decision effectively stopped the construction of a “village” for 10,000 people in one our nation’s most important wildlife movement corridors.

The Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture appealed this decision on May 9, 2018, and on December 11, 2018, a federal appeals court dismissed the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture appeal. The dismissal formally invalidated the land exchange. Read the full press release and court opinion.

We are currently waiting for the judge to rule that the land exchange has been thoroughly and legally uwound. 

The Road Access

In early June 2018, we were made aware of a January 12, 2018 letter sent to the Forest Service by the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture where they demanded that the Forest Service ignore recent court decisions and instead approve road construction to begin the proposed real estate development.

In response to this new revelation, the Friends of Wolf Creek issued a petition to urge Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas to uphold Federal Court Orders and stand up to back channel pressures. Despite over 2,300 signatures gathered in a little over a month, on July 19, the Rio Grande National Forest announced its intention to circumvent a federal court ruling that invalidated prior approvals for the controversial Village at Wolf Creek real estate development.

To make matters worse, the Forest Service severely limited who could object to this action by limiting objections to those who “previously submitted specific written comments regarding the proposed project during scoping or comments on the draft EIS” in 2012. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to comment on changes to their public lands and encouraged everyone to submit their objections whether or not they had standing.

As was expected, supporters who did not have standing to object by the Forest Service’s definition began to receive rejections to their objections on October 17, 2018. However, people who had submitted comments in the past and therefore would have standing began to receive the letters as well.

On February 27, 2019, Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas signed a Final Record of Decision that could result in an easement to facilitate construction of the massive “Village.” The Friends of Wolf Creek Coalition pushed back and filed a legal complaint against the Forest Serve on May 28, 2019.

On October 20, 2022, Federal District Court Judge Christine Arguello once again ruled that the Forest Service acted unlawfully when issuing the access decision for the Village at Wolf Creek. The Court also found that the Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when analyzing the impacts of this decision on the Federally listed Canada lynx. Both the Forest Service and the Developer, the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture, appealed Judge Arguello’s decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

On July 21, 2023, the Friends of Wolf Creek filed a Response Brief defending both Judge Matsch and Judge Arguello’s Orders and reiterating all the reasons why the Agencies actions were unlawful.

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Cover image by: Alex Pullen